Colchester High Street has had four new benches built to allow passers-by to enjoy public space.

Also referred to as “parklets”, the new benches make for a more efficient use of pavement space in the town’s busiest area.

Colchester is the first location in Essex to have the parklets installed.

The building of the new parklets was an initiative led by Colchester Council in partnership with the Our Colchester Business Improvement District.

A Business Improvement District (or BID) is a relatively new concept – it is a not-for-profit organisation that is privately funded by local businesses which, in this case, are located in Middleborough, Crouch Street, St Johns Street, and the High Street.

The benches are very much a local project in that the parklets were designed, constructed, and installed by companies either based in or within 15 miles of Colchester.

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As well as providing seating, the benches also feature flowers and greenery in a novel addition to what is normally a solely functional construct.

It is also hoped that the new seating will add to the atmosphere of the town centre by encouraging visitors to spend more time in the area and visiting local businesses.

The Manager of BID, Sam Good, pointed out that the parklets would also play their part in helping the town centre re-emerge from the pandemic with Covid-19 restrictions unlikely to be reimposed.

He said: “It's excellent to see the parklets finally in place on the high street.

“Placemaking and creating an experience for visitors to the town centre is essential for recovery from the pandemic, and the installation of these parklets will increase the clean and friendly appearance of the town allowing a more pleasant trip for both visitors and residents.

Mr good added that the benches will have a practical use throughout the year.

He added: “The parklets are for everyone to use all year round, be it a break in between shopping, enjoying a takeaway coffee, reading a book, or waiting outside whilst their friends or partners visit a nearby store.

“The parklets are there to be used an enjoyed. I’m really looking forward to seeing them in full use.”

Gazette: Eco - the new benches are locally sourced and have flower beds included as part of the designEco - the new benches are locally sourced and have flower beds included as part of the design

The Colchester Council portfolio holder for environment and sustainability, Councillor Simon Crow, said that the parklets will have wide-ranging benefits.

He said: “These small areas of tranquillity offer a place to reconnect with friends and family and improve the look and feel of the high street by introducing more trees and greenery, increasing the sense of pride in our town.

He added: “Research suggests that these small parks help to actively increase footfall and offer economic benefits by encouraging visitors to stay and enjoy what our town has to offer by way of local businesses and tourism.”